South Western head coach Jim Kopenhaver attempted to mask his frustration.
Staring down at the turf at Papermakers Stadium in Spring Grove, which had been pelted by a relentless downpour in the second half, Kopenhaver tried to quell the lingering pain of an 18-16 District 3 tournament first-round loss to a young and immensely deep Lancaster Catholic/Lancaster Country Day squad.
Never one to embellish any sort of acting job, Kopenhaver kept it business as usual.
"It's just one of those things where you can't judge the season on whether you win that final game or not," said Kopenhaver, who played both lacrosse and football during his stay at Penn State University. "More often than not, you're probably going to lose that final game in the postseason. I'd say we kind of fell short of expectations, but we've got some kids coming up from the JV. If they work hard in the offseason, they'll be key contributors next year. As a program we try not to rebuild. We try to reload."
With two minutes remaining and the Cougars bleeding out the clock, South Western's contingent of fans called for an uptick in man-to-man defensive pressure. The Mustangs made a concentrated effort to mark the Cougars' go-to scorers, but it was ultimately too little too late. Lancaster Catholic/Lancaster Country Day whizzed passes all around, draining the game's final minute.
"The camaraderie was really good between all of our players.
The Mustangs outshot their Lancaster County foe by a 35-21 margin.
The Cougars gained control of the battle when Caroline Kolva took advantage of a man-up situation. Kolva drilled an insurance goal from shallow yardage, supplying the Cougars with a 15-13 edge as 9:33 remained.
Jayme Verman rolled off a nifty up-and-under move through traffic, pocketing a goal that stretched Lancaster's edge to 16-13. With the rain picking up dramatically, it was the Cougars that poured it on. Daggett buried a ball off a dodge, creating a four-goal bulge for Lancaster Catholic/Lancaster Country Day.
South Western junior Jessica Kopenhaver thwarted the run with a goal at 8:18, slicing the deficit to 17-14.
The Mustangs wouldn't wilt. Katie Wherley slashed into a seam, evaded the pressure of swatting sticks and slung in a high-arching shot that sliced it to two with 7:56 to play. Kopenhaver captured the ensuing faceoff and the Mustangs spread the wealth methodically, cycling the ball to its dodgers.
Wherley scooped up a groundball, weaved through traffic and hunted for her shot. After misfiring, she capitalized on a second-chance touch by blasting one between the pipes as 3:59 remained.
The deficit stood at one goal, and South Western's momentum was rolling.
Less than a minute later, however, the dagger from Daggett deflated the Mustangs.
"For us to play here at Papermakers Stadium, ideally we would have liked to play them on grass or at our place," Jim Kopenhaver said. "It's one of those things you just can't change.
"We have a great group of seniors who were mostly three-, four-year starters. You hate to see them go, but I'm sure at this point they are all pretty much tired of hearing me yell at them. They've had enough. They are all ready for the next chapter of their lives and the next stage. It's an exciting time for them and I am always going to be indebted to them for what they all contributed to this program.
Beyond the exploits of LaSalle University-bound Wherley and Szparaga, Callie Kavanaugh turned in a hat trick. Jess Kopenhaver, who will be flushed into a prominent role as a senior next season, added two.
Verman was the catalyst who propelled Lancaster Catholic/Lancaster Country Day. Verman exploded for a game-high seven goals and dealt out three assists to spearhead the Cougars.
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